As a parent, I believe it is vital to educate children on the importance of healthy eating so that they can make smart decisions on their own one day. But in a culture where life revolves around quick fixes and getting the most “bang for your buck,” health-conscious habits aren’t always our first priority.
I have set out to prove that it is possible to create delicious and nutritious meals that are quick and easy to prepare as well as budget-friendly. Currently, I am focusing my efforts on creating a kid-friendly and adult-approved cookbook. These recipes will be designed specifically for bringing kids into the kitchen and getting them involved in the process of planning and preparing meals.
It is important to remember that forming healthy habits in children is a parent’s responsibility. It is never too early (nor too late) to get started! Here are some tips for parents on encouraging and maintaining these habits in your children:
- Start by being their best role model. Parental influence impacts a child’s choices more than any other force. If you don’t practice what you teach them, children will not be inclined to make healthy choices on their own.
- Get them involved. Bring them food shopping and have them assist you in the kitchen as a “sous chef” while preparing meals. If possible, visit a local farm so they can see where their fresh food comes from. If they are included and excited about the process, they are more likely to want to eat healthy.
- Give them options. When making a grocery list, guide them through choosing healthy foods. The same goes for meal planning. It is important that they know there are a variety of healthy meal choices available. Set up a salad bar with various toppings on the kitchen table.
- Keep healthy snacks on hand. Resist the urge to buy processed junk food and be mindful of ingredients in packaged goods. Opt for fruits and vegetables and prepare on-the-go snacks so that you are not tempted to settle for something unhealthy. Check out this blog post for healthy, portable snack ideas.
- Moderation is key. If children are accustomed to select foods, even if they are not the healthiest, they should not be banned from them entirely. Instead, teach your kids that unhealthy foods should only be eaten occasionally while healthy options are good to eat all of the time.
- Don’t give up! According to a study done by the National Institute of Health, children need multiple exposures to novel foods before they will try them. Encourage a taste test at the beginning of meals so that they experience it when they’re most hungry, rather than at the end when they are full.
If you are in the South Florida area, come out and support Sidewalk Chef at the Flavors of North Miami festival. This family-friendly event will take place Sunday, Nov. 9th, from 4-8 p.m. There will be a special “Kid’s Zone,” where children can prepare a healthy, budget-friendly dish with me and my assistants. For more information, view the event website here: http://www.flavorsofnorthmiami.com/.
Stay tuned to this blog to learn what’s coming “Off the Pan” with Sidewalk Chef!